We intend for “Featured Forum Post” to become a regular article on the site. Today, in the first installment, the post comes from Bocephus. The forum topic is Avidasports Rankings.
Reading some of the forums on CollegeSwimming.com and talking with swimmers elsewhere, it seems as though no one is buying these rankings–mostly due to the fact that they appear ludicrous at first glance. After they find out the rankings are based off “improvement,” we inevitably ask, “so what?” But, in my opinion, there is much more to these rankings that needs to be clear upfront. First off, the main admin at CollegeSwimming, Coach Greg Earhart has defended them vehemently already http://www.collegeswimming.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=5312. From my little experience talking with coach earhart, he is a man who is persuaded by data and expects others to feel the same way. He obsessively tracks his swimmers’ improvement at Carthage and uses that data to sell his program (which, to his credit, worked for me very well on a recruit trip….the rest of Cathage College/Kenosha/etc did not however). Obviously, there is ad revenue coming in from Avida to his CollegeSwimming.com (which Ill touch on later). Nonetheless, I’m assuming that Coach Earhart really does believe in the validity and significance of this data. He is not just selling ad space on the site. Secondly, Avida is a relatively new sports information firm with a particular interest in swimming who’s whole mission statement revolves around “improvements” even of the “smallest increments.” Tracking these improvements through high tech sensors and complex data sets are the product they are trying to sell at the highest levels of the sport.http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/19/sports/19swimming.html?_r=1 So, CollegeSwimming.com is definitely an outstanding stage upon which to get their name out there and hopefully (from their standpoint) wedge themselves into swimming.
As we saw from Beijing in 2008 to Rome in 2009, expensive technology and fancy space-age engineering seem to be the next tide in the sport that will rise next generations’ times to a level that will make us retiree-s feel like crap. As Ive mentioned elsewhere on this site, this is not a new trend in our sport or any other. Instead of reacting with some knee-jerk nostalgia for times past, we should embrace it. But, I still cannot help but worry that the new generation of technological change represents an alarming trend. The high-tech suits, these sensors, and obsession with minute data points incrementally de-humanize the very idea of improvement and shift responsibility further and further away from the swimmer herself/himself. In other words, instead of the source of improvement being somewhere in the psyche of the swimmer, it lies with these technologies.
Could someone like Michael Phelps and Cesar Cielo etc., benefit from analyzing computer models of their stroke and such–as envisioned by Avida in the above cited article—yes, possibly. But as we saw with the high-tech suits in 2008-2009, these kind of things trickle down to the lowest levels of the sport like country club summer b.s. swimming. And that worries me.
Also, on a side note, Avida is a Michigan-based firm. So power to the guys bringing jobs to the mitten, we can all at least agree on that much!